Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Daddy's Girl

"Sounds like your speaking jibberish when you read that book backwars. I'm soooo sleepy Daddy."Me and Dad on his day, Father's Day!
Me and Daddy on his other Big Day, his Birthday! He even let me help blow out the candles!
I always look for Daddy at bathtime. He's better at it than Mommy. Plus Mommy said that it gives her a break.
Like Father, Like Daughter. Mercy's own PC (it doesn't really work).
What a great pillow, Daddy!
OOoooo! We look so cool huh?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rest of the Story Part 3

My previous posts have covered most of the aspects of the Katrina Mess, but not all of them. Even as I reread my posts, I remember additional things that I should have mentioned. But alas, the rest of the story is still happening. Just as there are people in New Orleans trying to clean up the debris a year later, all of us are still cleaning up the debris metaphorically within ourselves.

In all actuality, my little family faired pretty well. We lived on the second floor of our building and we were renting. Both of those factors saved us the additional heartache that many had to go through. But don't underestimate Katrina's affect on our lives. We did not attempt to stay and weather the storm. Having a 6 week old, we were planning our evacuation even at 3am on the Friday before. But I wouldn't say we were prepared. The dishes were dirty, the clothes were dirty, we left behind much of our usual evacuation momentos and memories. Don't tell us we are so fortunate and don't tell us that we must be settled in now. We know we are fortunate. Many of our friends and family weren't, and we saw the devestation first hand. We had 9 feet of water in our building. Our downstairs neighbors didn't even bother coming back. What was there to come back to? The mold was to the ceiling and the waterline nearly to the ceiling as well.

The emotional debris that Katrina has left for us to pick up is equally traumatic. The city that we called home lay in ruins in October when we were finally allowed in to survey the damage and retrieve our stuff. All of our friends and church family was scattered. None remained but 3 family's we knew and one of those is desperately looking for a way out. The life we knew disappeared in an instant. The home we had so precisely prepared for Mercy's arrival is gone. The community that surrounded us like a comforting blanket has been ripped from our arms, and we often feel cold and alone. The support group and the work that brought additional purpose and meaning to my life is no more, though I can not complain about my role as full time mother. It is just lonely.

We did lose some things and those things were precious. In addition, Katrina scattered my family of origin. That came as quite a shock since our circling of the wagons through this tragedy was one of the main support beams in my life. And the rebuilding on this end is slow too. We still barely make ends meet even as careful and frugal as we are. We have found a church home, but no real small group--which we miss desperately! Thus, I have no real friends around me. This was not the road I would have chosen, but it is the journey I accept. There is purpose, and just like many of those in New Orleans who have chosen to rebuild their homes, I chose to rebuild my life and home however much sacrifice and work it takes. I may not be building my property and such in New Orleans, but I chose to join with that "New Orleans Spirit" and pick up the pieces of my life. Our life certainly will never be the same, but it will be something.

Katrina Remembered Part 2

So, we made it to Birmingham. We knew that we would need to immediatly change our phone numbers so that we would have use of them again. Not a chance that a 504 area code would go through at this point. We also had to have our charges for excessive texting wiped off since it was due to lack of service availability and a national emergency. We did however have some fee due to the change of number. Interesting since it was a necessary evil due to lack of service. Then we established our monies in a larger, more widespread bank so that we would have access to it. It was more than several months later and a trip back to New Orleans (end of February 2006) that we were finally able to get all of our money out and our accounts closed. Next we had to establish some type of address in order to recieve our bills and such. Both of my family's shared a P.O. Box. and filled out a change of address form. Still recieved some mail 2-3 months late. Next we spent a long time on the phone calling all of our billers and such and squaring away our accounts. Credit companies often politely extended grace through December which was a tremendous and unexpected help. Of course Jason and I were still dealing with many of our bills from the birth (the largest of which finally arrived yesterday)!

We checked at an American Red Cross Center set up at our old church. That was a great help as well, not to mention seeing familiar faces. We attained clothes and diapers and soap and such. My parents stayed with some dear friends of the family--in their basement--and Jason and I knew we'd need to spend some time at one of the family's houses. We chose to stay at his brother's new house which was more of a private option for our new family to settle a bit without getting overwhelmed. That option was unfortunately short lived. People seemed confused as if we were just on some sort of vacation. It was an extremely frustrating and disheartening time for us all. Some just couldn't understand--and likely never will.

That may likely have been the more stressful part. Instead of helping, as was obviously the true desire, it sometimes came across as hurtful. We were pressured and prodded. There seemed to be many unspoken expectations for what it was we were supposed to be doing. And we had no idea what we were going to do, often finding ourselves in that stuck place of shock. We found staying with others to be too overwhelming. Sometimes all you can give just isn't what is needed and that's just that.

We were eternally grateful for all the support that we did receive, but we knew that if we were going to make it here (in Birmingham), we were going to have to reestablish our own little family. Set some boundaries and regain our own team strength...Team Young.

We got an apartment with my parents with the understanding that when we got tired of eachother we would not be offended, but simply get away for awhile at someone else's place. There was a 2 week period that we spent in a friends basement. That was nice to have our own space, but sort of annoying as we could not doing any type of cooking. We literally ate out at almost every meal for 2 months straight!

The apartment was procured at the same time as Jason was having to commute to Atlanta for his computer job still affiliated with the Seminary. We knew that could only last so long. With a newborn and so much paperwork, phone calls, standing in line, and such I just couldn't do it on my own all the time. Luckily, I did have my parents to coordinate with much of the time.

We got in touch with FEMA, though I don't really remember how and/or when, we did get assistance. We managed to get the immediate emergency monies, then our first rent disbursement and possibly one other disbursement later. After never hearing anything from the Red Cross, not even a gift card as promised, I finally got in touch with one of my friends from New Orleans. It had been at least a month since the storm and a month before that since she and her family had gone on a month long vacation to Europe and returned the day of Katrina only to be diverted to Oklahoma. I found out we were supposed to get a significant amount from Red Cross, so we circled the wagons while Jason was doing interviews and stood in a very long line for a very long time (4 or more hours) and finally got some relief! In the next several weeks we continued making phone calls to unemployment and trips to the food stamps office and the FEMA headquarters here to make sure we had all our ducks in a row.
We missed the foodstamps cut off by a week or so. The unemployment journey was a nightmare that neverended until say April or May of this year when I finally got a human on the phone--and one that actually was capable of helping me. It's been a long and tiring journey. The taxes thing was also a big nightmare! That didn't get resolved till nearly a year later! ugh.

Saga three will hopefully be the last, but Mercy's asking for lunch right now. Another posting to come

Katrina Anniversary

Sorry. I don't mean to be cliche, but you all knew I had to blog about this today. It was a year ago today when Katrina hit land. Now I realize it did not make a direct hit over New Orleans, which is the reason that a year ago today, my family breathed a slight sigh of relief and decided that we'd return home sometime on Tuesday. We only brought enough clothes and such for that length of time as it was. It wasn't until Tuesday morning, passing the television on my way to the breakfast table that I heard, "The waters are still rising in New Orleans." I was stunned and confused, and obviously did not fully grasp the situation. I remember asking Nene and Dr. Bob what the news was saying. Apparently, I knew I had missed something. That's when all the pieces of the puzzle can together!

One by one, my family arose from sleep and came to the breakfast table only to discover for themselves the harsh reality of the situation at hand. It was surreal at the very least. There was a moment in time that almost stood still as we each in our own way tried to soak in as much of the situation as our understanding could hold onto. I remember hearing that it would be at least 6 weeks before anyone would be allowed to return, quite possibly closer to 3 months. After mostly grasping all of that, I remember my husband and I deliberating in Nene's blue room about where to go from here. Our natural choice was to head for Birmingham, because Jason had enough connections there to get a job. So, we gathered as a circling of wagons, my parents, jason, mercy, and I and discussed our decisions. I remember that mom and dad had there own private deliberation, the outcome of which was their decision to go with us, if for no other reason than the understanding that we were going to have to stick together in this if we were going to make it through all of this with any kind of sanity intact (the verdict is still out on this).

I think we decided to leave on the Thursday after my birthday. And what a birthday it was! I did manage to get my favorite cake out of the deal, so I can't complain...I remember, though, noting that we immediately needed to get our money out of the bank and move it to a bank less connected with New Orleans. That was difficult since the computer systems were down due to the hurricane. The personal banker was extremely helpful and managed to work around it, noting our desperation and quietly trying to fully grasp our situation.

We walked across the street to a children's consignment shop, the only one in Shreveport, LA, because we needed clothes for Mercy. The onsies and gowns I had thrown in her bag in a hurry were already too small. Mom and I discussed it all as we sifted through the secondhand clothes searching for anything marked one or two dollars. Another customer overheard our conversation and donated her credit in the store to us. It was a mere $32, but considering they were having a sale, those dollars were stretched even further. That was the first ray of God's light amidst the settling storm.

The journey to Birmingham from Shreveport was a long one filled with angst. The cell phones didn't work, so we had to resort to texting to communicate between the two cars, not to mention trying to check in with friends also scattered. Some we didn't hear from for at least another month! The most nervous part was the whole gas scare/hoarding. Everywhere we attempted to stop, there was no gas. Finally we made it to Meridian where we sat in a fairly organized line and filled up both tanks before moving onto Jackson. We topped off the tank whenever we could to make sure we made it to Birmingham. We knew once we got there, even if there was no gas there, we would be safe.

We stopped in jackson and checked in with family. We let poor Mercy get out of the car seat for a while. She did so well noting that she was only about 7 weeks. Thankfully at that age they still sleep alot! Then, we quickly moved on to Birmingham. Many phone calls were and emails were made requesting our sizes as friends and previous church members gathered up the appropriate clothing in a holding place for us! Another ray of God's love.

Additional posts commemorating the remainder of the story to come...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dream Home!

We're on a mission. In driving around, looking at the depressing choices of houses within our immediate means, we stumbled upon the neighborhood of our dreams. We immediately fell in love! Even Mercy was in the back seat going "Ooooo!"

This tiny little neighborhood is literally just one small street that circles around. All the houses are similar to this one, sort of a southern style beach house of sorts. They all have a yard with a white picket fence and a drive that leads to a garage. The street is situated in the middle of Old Town Helena! The mental pictures just flow with scenes of our little family walking to dinner at the nearby, cosy restaurants. Mercy playing in the part a few houses away. Getting fresh produce at the stand across the street. Watching free flicks in the outdoor amphitheater across the way.

Alas, these are only dreams as of yet. Surprisingly, these lovely homes are only slightly out of our financial means. Thus, we have found a great deal of motivation to save, save, save. Squander every penny. Sell every superfluous item. You know the whole "Beg, Borrow, Steal" thing only we don't steal.

Right now we are only in the brainstorming stage, but my brain hurts from all the thinking of ways to reduce the monthly outflow and increase the monthly income. Honestly, if any of you faithful readers have interesting ideas, feel free to leave them as comments. We're up for anything at this point!

It is two story, and technically 2 bedrooms, but as you can see, there is an additional room that the current owners used as the nursery. I can barely wait to have a yard for Mercy to play in! But we can wait and we will wait, because the end result is worth it.

In the meantime, we will pray, consider all our options--even the unusual ones, and save like crazy. We going to do a money making account for our existing downpayment monies, and simply continue to add to it. We hope to sell our minivan very soon. As it is, we have 3 vehicles, 2 of which are paid for. That will add some to our savings.

It is possible that when our lease is up at our current location we may move to a less expensive option. We are even exploring these "cottages," mother-in-law suites, basement living type rentals that are generally affiliated with someone else's home. It would likely be small, and we would definately have to simplify and/or store some items, but I've seen them in the paper as low as $400/mo. in the very neighborhood we already live in. Some even include utilities at a rate from 670-750 a month. That's darn good considering it includes utilities and you wouldn't have to hassle with the deposits and switch overs that often come with moving.

We are still weighing all our options though, because not only is moving detestable, it is costly. There's the truck rental, the manpower needed, gas, all the deposits. Then there are the hassles of the change of address and such. You have to consider location in relation to work and church and mothers-day-out. Whew! I'm tired even now.

I don't know much else, but I know this one thing. The dream is there, the motivation and goal in place. Now we simply need prayer and a plan of action! Join us in prayer for this new venture of rebuilding our lives post Katrina! It may take 2 years, but after 2 years we desperately hope to be in a place to buy a home and have another child. Oh the excitement of the journey of life never ends!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Birthday Pictures!

Finally got to these a month or more later! First is my 4th of July party!

Next is my party at Aunt Minnah's house! Super fun gazebo and pool! Surprise! Stone came!

Friday, August 25, 2006

True Friends

You know those friends that you've known for a long, long time and nothing ever gets old. I don't mean their quirks or idiosyncracies. Those almost always get old eventually. I just mean that excitement and feeling of newness never wears off. You always want hear their next story or checkin to see how they're doing.

Thankfully I have a few of those. I chatted online with one last night. We've known each other since college and were in eachothers weddings, and believe it or not, we still talk. Like you might expect, it's not all the time and it's mostly thanks to the internet connection, but it's one of those that you pick up where you left off. Talking to her is always refreshing!

Then there's Alyson. Check out her blog at She and I have also been friends since college. She's had such a life and is halfway across the country, but we still check in. I always want to see her even if it's just for 30 minutes passing through, going somewhere else. We check in once in a while and we still pray for eachother as we remember. Well, Alyson visited! Mercy loved her--and her chair. Here are the pics from the visit!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Road Trip Update!

So...I forgot my camara on our road trip. This is only slightly annoying since everyone else took pics. I will post some when I get some. Until then, my story will have to do.

It's great taking a road trip with your sister. I'm not one for cheesiness, but in all truth there really is a bond that only sisters share. It's even better taking a road trip with MY sister because she has a memory that won't quit and a mind that can really tell a story. For those of you who know me, you know that my memories are limited and disjunct, so just hearing Meredith tell "You remember when" stories from our childhood was fabulous! No, most of those stories I didn't remember, but through her telling sensed that vaguely familiar connection. Some things I had no memory of, so she could have just made something up, but even so, it was great!

Relatives are an unusual bunch. You love seeing them, but you can only take so much. It was great seeing my grandmothers and my aunts and uncles. I especially loved seeing Renee and the kids. And Ryan for that matter. You sort of forget how much you missed people until you see them again. And I found myself wishing for more time to catch up or more connections in order to reconnect. Seeing my aunt kathy was refreshing because I found her to be so much like my mother except more calm or laid back or something.

I did not sleep well at all on the trip. Not one night really. I could hear Mercy's every move, not to mention it's hard when you're not sleeping in your own bed--AND--I forgot my own pillow. I didn't get any naps which I'm used to getting staying home with Mercy and all. Needless to say, I fairly certain that Mercy felt the same way because she eventually got cranky and whiny and just wanted to go, "bye bye." She got tons of mosquito bites and bonked and scraped her head and arm. I swore Jason would never let me take her away again when he saw her, but it really wasn't so bad.

You know, on road trips, the stupidest parts were always the most fun. Well, Mer and I went on this trip with absolutely no directions which was hilarious. We simply tried to rely on our memories to get to where we needed to go. We always got there, but not without several turn arounds. Especially humerous (only cause we survived and were not in immediate danger) was getting turned around in downtown Shreveport. Somehow, twice, I managed to turn down a one way street the wrong way. Luckily no one was close enough for us to be a danger or in danger. Jason would have been annoyed because we didn't have directions! And certainly if we had gotten truly lost, I would have been annoyed as well. But we always had a general idea of where we were. And the signage was good, so we faired well.

I traded numbers with my cousins and asked for recipes from my nene. I sewed with my aunt and grandmother and sister, and traded baby toys and clothes with my cousins. I even got a jacuzzi bubble bath! All in all, I'm thrilled that I went! We were tired and ready to go, but you take the good with the bad, you suck it up and do it. And you're always glad you did.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pics for Shed Tears

Here is precious Mercy in line at the Red Cross to register for assistance post Katrina (Birmingham Downtown).

That was the playground across the street as seen from our window.

This is our downstairs neighbors' apartment. The big white blob here is the overturned refrigerator. Yes, that is mold on their ceiling. This enrire building no longer exists. The front stair well was entirely collapsed.

Mom and Dad's kitchen.

Ah...This was our apartment. That was our neighbors car.

If only you could experience all the senses in the picture; the heat and humidity of no power, the rank smell of a musty, contaminated mess, the slick surface of slime under your feet.

Shed Tears

I shed some tears today for the life lost. I can cope though because of the new life I have now, full of future hope and possibility mingled with a touch of the things I new back then. The anniversary of Katrina is fast approaching. It's literally about a week away. I thought it would make an appropriate blog so I searched through some of my cataloged photos and a rush of emotion came over me. I fought it at first, but then thought it best to just allow myself to mourn just a bit. Mostly I morned for the comfort of home and family. I mourned for the comfort of a full life, one that knew of a support group of neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers who valued me and my life enough to keep up with my ongoings and offer help or encouragement along this journey we are all in together.

I find that I'm a bit more emotional now because of other people's issues that are affecting me at this time. It is funny how God intended our earthly relationships to also be interwoven. That's part of the concept of community. When one hurts, others feel some of the pain. It may not be the same pain, or the same feeling, and it may not be completely understood, but the reality is that regardless of the claims that the pain belongs to that one person alone, it is my experience that the pain is shared. It is the same with Christ even. It would be and is my pleasure (and pain) to experience some of the ache and pain of His redeeming death. We are not designed to be an island. It's not in our makeup. We are made in Christ's image and he is one part of a Trinity--these three co-exist. Hard to grasp, but something that I think we long to achieve in our own relationships. The concept is similar also in the explanation of the church as the body and the marital relationship as no longer two but one. This soapbox could really go on, and probably get really good, but this is all I choose to say about such things at this time.

Things are different now. I expected as much, but I just thought it good to express. So thus, I will make a list of the differences from the past year.

1. I have a toddler (thus life is different)
2. I don't have a job
3. Most of my relationships are distant and communication is seldom
4. We have found a church but no connection of a small group
5. My family is putting down roots!
6. The prospect of a house is high and soon!
7. There is quite a lot of limbo in our life.
8. My extended family of origin is gone away (in many aspects)
9. My precious family of 3 here is more of a family, more communally sufficient.
10. I've become a homebody.
11. I have little or no direction outside of acquiring and making a home at this time.
12. We have a routine!
13. We have significantly less debt!

I'm sure the list could go on, but those are the first and easiest to recall. And I'm not going to waist all of these quiet moments during Mercy's nap expressing them to all of you who even read this. It's time to get up and move on. I paid enough attention to my grief today, and so, I will unpack from my trip, shower, clean, and do all the other stay-at-home-mom things I usually do. I will update you all on my trip later, after work tonite (child care work for peanuts).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Going on 5 Years

So I'm going on five years of being in love. Don't get me wrong...everyday is not filled with with rainbows and bluebirds. None the less, I feel fortunate, truly blessed, to have found the one God intended my earthly heart for. This is tricky, you see, because I understand that I, along with my heart, have been truly made for God and His love. I also understand, however, that He intended our hearts and persons to live and "be" in communion with others. This marital love is the perfect example of that intended communion.

I had a dream last night. A dream that I was having to decide and then follow through with a decision on whether I should continue seeing/dating a guy or not. From now on we'll call this guy "Bob". Bob is actually a person from my past whom I had a great deal of feelings for and whom I understood to be a very upstanding, respectable, nice sort of guy. So, you know when you have those dreams that seem extremely real? This was one of those. In the dream, I decide that though I think Bob is great, I also understand that he is not meant to be my one and only. That I think he would make a good husband to someone is beside the point, he is not what I need. I imagine married life with him and realize that I am lacking. I am missing something, a slight emptiness. It is definative and disturbing. I do not feel adequately loved as I understand God desires me to be.

I confidently and gently break it to him (Bob) that while he is a wonderful person and my desire is not to hurt him, it is only right to end this now as I see that I am not to marry him. He is heart broken and so am I in a sense, but I also feel a pride that I did what was only right. I don't know what comes next in my "future" (in the dream), but I understand that my one and only is still out there. God made that clear.

This dream was not so different from the real story only went much smoother. In reality, this particular journey and time in my life was literally close to hell on earth emotionally. I only wish things had gone as they had in my dream. And I wonder sometimes why our brains and dreams work as they do. I mean, why did I need to think of this guy, Bob, much less dream about all that? I don't really know per se, except that maybe it was simply a reminder of what I have.

I woke up with an overwhelming appreciation for the love of my life lying there next to me in that bed. Sometimes, the longer you're married the more reminders you need. I have since thought of Jason (my one and only) most of the day and couldn't keep the grin from my lips. He's something. All his quirks could drive you crazy, but they are also very endearing--ok most of them anyway. His face is adorable and his personality is gentle, sweet, funny, and the list goes on.

This evening after walking in the door from work he scooped up Tutti and loved on her and then proceeded to wrap his arms around me and whisper in my air that he thought I looked really good in these earth tones. Ha ha! That is so adorable! Do you wanna know what I really looked like!? I was wearing my most worn out pair of jeans cause I didn't feel like shaving my legs, a plain brown t-shirt, no make up, and a pony tail. Truly a sight for sore eyes. But not to him. See that is who/what I needed. My one and only was to be the kind of man that cherished me thru and thru. He saw my beauty even when I didn't. He's the very best kind of husband. The kind that makes you feel like you are the most beautiful, most special, most capable, most important person around. That's Jason.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Road Trip!

So, I'm going on a road trip! Haven't done that in quite some time. I mean, I've been on trips to visit my family, but this time it's with my sister. You know, those college days when you decide at the last minute to pile in a car and go somewhere just cause you feel like it. That's this. My sister and I actually found ourselves discussing Indigo Girl albums! That's old school for us.

Ah...I remember the days when the windowsheild was so iced over, and we were running so late that we'd drive to school with the windows down and our heads out the window, Indigo Girls compilation tape blaring over the outside noise. We'd both be singing and happy even if just for those few minutes. You all know how high school is. Stupid and unhappy, trying to find the meaning in life (this is where I'm rolling my eyes at myself)!

Mer. She was the only one standing by my side--and seating next to me in a seat that I paid for--when the Girls came to town on the same night as the Passion concert. Some people thought we were heathens, but we just knew good music and limited opportunity. Well hopefully this coming weeked will involve lots of good music and many small windows of opportunity!

We are going to see our grandmothers. First to Jackson, where we will see various aunts and uncles and cousins from my mom's side, then to Shreveport where we will stay with my dad's mom, and hopefully see many more cousins and aunt's and uncle's from my mom's side. I hope everything works out seeing as it's fairly short notice! I'll write back int with more after roadtrip commentary!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

No more bottle!

Today was the first day of our "Off the Bottle" campaign for Mercy. I know technically she's supposed to be off the bottle by the age of one, but I just didn't have the emotional energy to deal with it till today. There was no prior planning or anything. In fact, she's in the middle of teething yet another top tooth and she was whiny and clingy, yet I still thought today would be a good day to give it a go. And you know what? It was a good day!

She only got slightly frustrated at breakfast about not having her bottle. I did notice that she clung ever more tightly to her binky and her passy. I figure that's ok for now. Even nap times were fairly simple. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't going to just let me rock her to sleep. I had to sing a bit and just place her in her crib, but she didn't fuss. It was truly a God kind of amazing!

Of course we had to celebrate by going out to Babies R Us and getting a bunch of new sippy cups to try! She didn't mind that a bit. She and I both enjoy a change of scenery every once in a while. She drank less total all day, but that's really more of a good thing since I suspect she was having way too much milk as it was. That really helped the cloth diaper thing also, cause she didn't go so much.

I read online last night that a good cloth diaper should go at least 3 hours. That was the max of the max for her a few days ago without a doubler. Not today! 3 hours was fine--it was just right really. I think this is going to be a fabulous new stage in life.

Speaking of fabulous new stages...I stepped on a scale today and noticed much to my surprise that I had lost a significant amount of weight without even trying. I will say I have not been having my daily coffee simply because the heat makes that unattractive. And, Jason and I have been pinching every penny and thus have rarely eaten out. When I say rarely, I mean very rarely! I guess all of those things help. I was thrilled, anyway, standing there on the scale and finding myself only 6 small pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. Then I was thrilled in another way...I always said that I wouldn't try for another kid till I had gotten back down in weight! That's coming soon! Of course there's no law that says I have to start trying the day I lose my last pound. It's highly unlikely at that. But it was a slightly mixed up revelation none-the-less.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Sometimes it still hit like a mighty wave! I felt the wave swooping in Monday night as I was wading through paperwork knee deep looking for anything FEMA related. All that stuff is in one box. There are things in there like notes from my old boss, a birthday card that came to me 2 or 3 months late, things that remind me of what once was.

Grief is a strange thing. You know, you don't even think of these types of things most days, and then...whoosh! And you are listening to a song that reminds you of days at Celebration and the members of the praise team/band that you treasured on so many different levels. You think of the good and the bad and you miss them both somehow.

The poor woman at United Way on Tuesday asked me how I was doing and I always think this is a loaded question. So I start to tear up and tell her that I'm good most of the time, but hashing through or rehashing rather through all this Katrina paper work brings up memories that leave me a bit sad and nostalgic. Then we discuss the whole concept of going back, and how even if my family were to pick up and go back to New Orleans tomorrow, there really is no "going back." Everything is different. The people you knew and loved there are gone, familiar sights and areas are washed and left desolate. It is not what I left. It is a mere skeleton of what we once knew. Ahh...that's the breaks.

You know life is never predictable and God didn't promise that it would be. He says to always be ready, but we rarely are. We are so easily distracted from His inner voice. "Prone to wander Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love."

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way and certainly don't feel entitled to special treatment or attention. My best friend is Alyson Roth. We don't talk like we once did, but then life has us in different place as far as distance and stages. Nonetheless, I have never loved a friend like I love her. She has equal or greater rather reason to grieve. She has recently recognized the 6 year anniversary of an accident that rendered her paralyzed from the bellybutton down (or so). Yet, I know that she still grieves at random intervals. She is still so full of life and the desire to continue truly living that sitting and chatting with her you'd never even remember that when you get up to leave, she won't be getting up, but rather confidently wheeling alongside you. Somehow, just thinking of her is a comfort to me. Thanks, Al, for being an inspiration and friend. And for knowing me like you do.